A Peculiar People
A number of verses in the Bible reveal God’s plan for us in its entirety. The first half of God’s plan is that Jesus died to save all who believe in him from the condemnation they deserve because of their sin. The second half is that believers are to live lives of godliness, obedient to Jesus Christ’s moral code. Belief and behavior.
One of the verses that says it all is Titus 2:14. I normally use the NIV, but once in a while the King James Version says it best. “(Jesus) gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity (the salvation part), and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works (the behavior part).”
One word stands out – “peculiar.” In today’s world, no one wants to be described as being peculiar. Peculiar people are odd, weird, abnormal. No one wants to be thought of as a weirdo, although I suspect the term has come up when members of my flock sit around the table and discuss their pastor.
However, peculiar has not always and should not today have such a negative connotation. Peculiar can also describe someone who is different in ways that are extraordinary and heroic.
The Romans of Paul’s day did not understand the people of this new religious sect, the “Christians.” To the Romans they were very peculiar – weird. They took care of each other like a family, sharing everything. They forgave their enemies. Their allegiance was to their God more than to Rome and the Emperor. They went to their deaths singing and praying rather that give up their faith. They forsook the lifestyle of the Romans with its pursuit of glory, wealth, and power and embraced a lifestyle of humility, service, and worship, a lifestyle that cost them dearly.
That people would die for a self-evident cause was not unusual. That people would die for long-standing cultural traditions was not unusual. That people would die for glory or country was not unusual. But for people to live lives so empty of what the Romans believed to be practical pursuits, that made the Christians most unusual. Peculiar, odd ducks, weirdoes, creeps. And dangerous. What will happen to Rome if this kinder gentler ethos spreads?
But Paul asked for believers to embrace the word “peculiar.” For the believer, let it mean extraordinary, heroic, exceptional, “zealous for good works.” Good works as described throughout Scripture. Not just the “shalt nots” but the “Shalt dos.” The hard stuff.
If you want to know if you really are “Christian peculiar,” read Romans 12 and see how you measure up. Read the Sermon on the Mount and see if you qualify as peculiar. Are you as peculiar as the Fruits of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-26 say you ought to be?
This is God’s call for Christians – to be a peculiar people — instructed, empowered, and convicted by the Holy Spirit to say no to conventional wisdom and yes to discipleship in its purest form.